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Surviving pictures of the English composer and organist John Stanley show clearly the effects of a childhood domestic accident that saw him blinded at the age of two.
It is clearly something that never held him back, however, and he became the youngest ever person to get his B.Mus. degree from Oxford University at the age of seventeen. Stanley moved in very auspicious musical circles; he was good friends with Handel, and his teacher, Maurice Greene, was a Master of the King’s Musick.
As well as conducting many of Handel’s British works, he inherited a few London gigs after Handel’s death. These included the oratorio season, which happened around Lent, and the performances of Messiah at the Foundling hospital. Stanley also succeeded William Boyce as Master of the King’s Musick when he was sixty-seven (he lived to the very impressive age of seventy-four).
Stanley was most famous in his lifetime, though, as an organist, proving to be a magnet for organ lovers from miles around at his church, St Andrew’s in London’s Holborn. His three volumes of organ voluntaries (including the tune featured here) are his most popular legacy. So, although we know this piece as the Trumpet Voluntary, it wasn’t really initially intended to be played on a trumpet at all.
John Filsell (organ). Guild: GMcd7107.
Illustration: Mark Millington